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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
February 1944

 

1/2 February 1944

12 Mosquitos to Berlin. 3 to Aachen and 3 to Krefeld. 3 Serrate patrols. 1 Mosquito lost on the Berlin raid.

2/3 February 1944

7 Mosquitos to Rheinhausen and 6 to Elberfeld, 2 RCM sorties, 5 Serrate patrols, 50 Halifaxes minelaying in Kiel Bay. The Kiel Bay mining operation was a ploy to draw up German fighters, even though no major bombing raid was planned. No aircraft were lost from these operations.

3/4 February 1944

7 Mosquitos to Krefeld, 4 to Dortmund and 3 to Cologne, 6 RCM sorties, 1 Serrate patrol, 35 aircraft minelaying off French Channel and Atlantic ports, 4 OTU .sorties. No aircraft lost.

4/5 February 1944

9 Mosquitos to Frankfurt, 5 to Elberfeld and 1 to Aachen, 2 Serrate patrols, 28 aircraft minelaying in the Bay of Biscay, 49 aircraft - 27 Stirlings, 17 Halifaxes, 3 Lysanders, 2 Hudsons - on Resistance operations. This was the first widespread use of the No 3 Group Stirling squadrons for Resistance operations work. No aircraft lost.

5/6 February 1944

18 Mosquitos to Berlin, 7 to Duisburg and 1 to Hannover, 3 Serrate patrols, 29 Stirlings and 17 Halifaxes on Resistance operations, 19 Halifaxes minelaying off Oslo and Fredrijkstad in Norway, 15 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling lost on Resistance operations work.

7/8 February 1944

19 Mosquitos to Frankfurt, 8 to Elberfeld, 5 to Krefeld, 2 to Aachen and 1 to Mannheim, 4 Serrate patrols. No losses.

Royal visitors to Bomber Command HQ
Bomber Command HQ at High Wycombe was visited by HM KIng George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Here, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris points out one aspect of that night's operations.

8/9 February 1944

12 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron, led by its new commanding officer Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, attacked the Gnome & Rhone aero-engine factory at Limoges in France. This was a very important raid. No 617 Squadron had been experiencing difficulty in finding a useful role after the Dams Raid nearly 9 months earlier. Low-level precision raids on targets in Germany had been too costly. High-level precision bombing on small targets in France and Belgium had been unsatisfactory, despite marking by Oboe-equipped Mosquitos. For this attack, Cheshire was given official permission to attempt low-level marking of this target, which had many French civilian houses near by. The factory was undefended, except for 2 machine-guns, and Cheshire made 3 low-level runs in bright moonlight to warn the French factory workers to escape. On his 4th run, he dropped a load of 30lb incendiaries from between 50 and 100ft. Each of 11 other Lancasters then dropped a 12,000lb bomb with great accuracy; 10 bombs hit the factory and the remaining one fell in the river alongside. The factory was severely damaged and production almost completely ceased. There were few if any casualties among the French people. No Lancasters were lost.

Despite the success of the low-level marking, it was never adopted by the Pathfinders, but was used on raids by No 617 Squadron and No 5 Group.

11 Mosquitos to Brunswick and 8 to Elberfeld, 2 Serrate patrols, 39 aircraft on Resistance operations, 19 OTU sorties. No losses.

9/10 February 1944

16 Mosquitos dispatched - 8 to Elberfeld, 7 to Krefeld and 1 to Aachen. 1 aircraft lost on the Krefeld raid.

No 10 Operational Training Unit, 10 October 1944
Crews undergoing training with No 10 OTU at Castle Donington pose for a picture on 10 October 1944.

10/11 February 1944

21 Mosquitos to Berlin and 4 to Aachen, 2 Wellingtons on RCM flights, 21 aircraft minelaying off Brittany and Biscay ports, 26 aircraft on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.

11/12 February 1944

11 Mosquitos to Brunswick, 8 to Elberfeld, 4 to Aachen and 4 to Duisburg, 2 RCM sorties, 5 Serrate patrols, 52 aircraft minelaying off French Channel and Atlantic ports, 27 aircraft on Resistance operations, 6 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

12/13 February 1944

10 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron attempted to bomb the Anthéor Viaduct, an important railway link between France and Italy but, as on two earlier raids, were not successful despite low-level runs by Wing Commander Cheshire and Squadron Leader Martin. The sides of the valley were very steep and the target was defended by guns which damaged both of the low-level aircraft. Flight Lieutenant RC Hay, the bomb aimer in Martin's aircraft and the Squadron Bombing Leader since No 617's formation, was killed.

8 Mosquitos to Elberfeld and 4 to Duisburg, 3 Serrate patrols, 25 Halifaxes and Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians and off Cherbourg. 1 Halifax minelayer lost.

No 619 Squadon Lancaster III
A Lancaster III of No 619 Squadron caught in flight on 14 February, 1944.

15/16 February 1944

After a rest of more than 2 weeks for the regular bomber squadrons, 891 aircraft - 561 Lancasters, 314 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitos - were dispatched to Berlin. This was the largest force sent to Berlin and the largest non-1,000 bomber force sent to any target, exceeding the previous record of 826 aircraft (which included Stirlings and Wellingtons) sent to Dortmund on the night of 23/24 May 1943. It was also the first time that more than 500 Lancasters and more than 300 Halifaxes were dispatched. The German controllers were able to plot the bomber stream soon after it left the English coast but the swing north over Denmark for the approach flight proved too far distant for many of the German fighters. The German controller ordered the fighters not to fly over Berlin, leaving the target area free for the flak, but many fighters ignored him and attacked bombers over the city. The diversion to Frankfurt-on-Oder failed to draw any fighters. 43 aircraft - 26 Lancasters, 17 Halifaxes -were lost, 4.8 per cent of the force.

Berlin was covered by cloud for most of the raid. Heavy bombing fell on the centre and south-western districts and some of Berlin's most important war industries were hit, including the large Siemensstadt area. This was really the end of the true 'Battle of Berlin'; only one more raid took place on the city in this period and that was not for more than a month.

23 Oboe Mosquitos attacked 5 night-fighter airfields in Holland, 43 Stirlings and 4 Pathfinder Halifaxes carried out minelaying in Kiel Bay, 24 Lancasters of No 8 Group made a diversion raid on Frankfurt-on-Oder, 9 aircraft made RCM flights and 14 Mosquitos carried out Serrate patrols. A Serrate Mosquito was the only aircraft lost.

2 Mosquitos to Aachen, 6 Stirlings and 6 Wellingtons minelaying off Bayonne and Lorient, 48 aircraft on Resistance operations. 1 Stirling lost from a Resistance flight.

Total effort for the night: 1,070 sorties, 45 aircraft (4.2 per cent) lost.

No 12 Squadron, 17 February, 1944
Crews of No 12 Squadron pose for the camera during a break in operations, 17 February 1944.

19/20 February 1944

Leipzig: 823 aircraft - 561 Lancasters, 255 Halifaxes, 7 Mosquitos. 78 aircraft - 44 Lancasters and 34 Halifaxes - lost, 9.5 per cent of the force. The Halifax loss rate was 13.3 per cent of those dispatched and 14.9 per cent of those Halifaxes which reached the enemy coast after 'early returns' had turned back. The Halifax IIs and Vs were permanently withdrawn from operations to Germany after this raid.

This was an unhappy raid for Bomber Command. The German controllers only sent part of their force of fighters to the Kiel minelaying diversion. When the main bomber force crossed the Dutch coast, they were met by a further part of the German fighter force and those German fighters which had been sent north to Kiel hurriedly returned. The bomber stream was thus under attack all the way to the target. There were further difficulties at the target because winds were not as forecast and many aircraft reached the Leipzig area too early and had to orbit and await the Pathfinders. 4 aircraft were lost by collision and approximately 20 were shot down by flak. Leipzig was cloud-covered and the Pathfinders had to use skymarking. The raid appeared to be concentrated in its early stages but scattered later.

45 Stirlings and 4 Pathfinder Halifaxes minelaying in Kiel Bay, 16 Oboe Mosquitos bombing night-fighter airfields in Holland, 15 Mosquitos on a diversion raid to Berlin, 12 Serrate patrols. 1 Mosquito lost from the Berlin raid. 3 Mosquitos attacked Aachen and 3 more bombed flying-bomb sites in France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 921 sorties, 79 aircraft (8.6 per cent) lost.

This was the heaviest Bomber Command loss of the war so far, easily exceeding the 58 aircraft lost on 21/22 January 1943 when Magdeburg was the main target.

20/21 February 1944

598 aircraft - 460 Lancasters, 126 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos - to Stuttgart. The North Sea sweep and the Munich diversion successfully drew the German fighters up 2 hours before the main bomber force flew inland and only 9 aircraft - 7 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes - were lost, 1.5 per cent of the force. 4 further Lancasters and 1 Halifax crashed in England.

156 aircraft - 132 from training units and 24 from squadrons - flew a large training exercise across the North Sea as a preliminary feint; 24 Mosquitos attacked airfields in Holland; 7 Mosquitos made a diversionary raid on Munich and there were 7 Serrate patrols. No aircraft lost.

28 Stirlings and 6 Wellingtons laid mines off French ports. 1 Wellington lost.

Total effort for the night: 826 sorties, 10 aircraft (1.2 per cent) lost.

21/22 February 1944

17 Mosquitos to Duisburg, Stuttgart and 2 flying-bomb sites, 1 Serrate patrol, 41 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off French ports, 10 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

22/23 February 1944

Mosquitos: 10 to Stuttgart, 8 to Duisburg and 3 to Aachen, 71 Halifaxes and 40 Stirlings sent minelaying off North German coast recalled because of bad weather at bases, 2 RCM sorties, 2 Serrate patrols. No aircraft lost.

23/24 February 1944

17 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 2 Serrate patrols, 3 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost. A Mosquito of 692 Squadron on the Düsseldorf raid was the first Mosquito to drop a 4,000lb bomb. The Mosquitos of the Light Night Striking Force regularly carried such heavy bombs during the remaining months of the war to targets as far distant as Berlin.

24/25 February 1944

734 aircraft - 554 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 11 Mosquitos - carried out the first Bomber Command raid on Schweinfurt, home of Germany's main ball-bearing factories. 266 American B-17s had raided the factories the previous day.

Bomber Command introduced a novel tactic on this night. The Schweinfurt force was split into two parts - 392 aircraft and 342 aircraft, separated by a 2-hour interval. Part of the German fighter force was drawn up by earlier diversions. The first wave of the Schweinfurt bombers lost 22 aircraft, 5.6 per cent; the second wave lost only 11 aircraft, 3.2 per cent, and it is believed that only 4 bombers from the second wave were shot down by night fighters. Total losses were 33 aircraft - 26 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes - 4.5 per cent of the force.

179 training aircraft on a diversionary sweep over the North Sea, 60 Halifaxes and 50 Stirlings minelaying in Kiel Bay and the Kattegat, 15 Mosquitos to airfields in Holland, 8 Mosquitos to Kiel and 7 to Aachen, 12 Serrate patrols. 2 Stirlings were lost from the minelaying operation and 1 Serrate Mosquito of No 141 Squadron was lost, the first Serrate aircraft to be lost under Bomber Command control. 5 Wellingtons laid mines off Lorient without loss.

Total effort for the night: 1,070 sorties, 36 aircraft (3.4 per cent) lost.

Halifax crash
Tragic scene at an unknown Bomber Command station as a Halifax meets its end in flames. Many crews died in take-off and landing accidents.

25/26 February 1944

594 aircraft - 461 Lancasters, 123 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos - on the first large raid to Augsburg. The various diversions and the splitting of the main bomber force into 2 waves again reduced casualties still further. 21 aircraft - 16 Lancasters, 5 Halifaxes - lost, 3.6 per cent of the force; at least 4 of these casualties were due to collision.

The bombing at Augsburg was outstandingly successful in clear weather conditions and against this 'virgin' target with only weak flak defences. The Pathfinder ground-marking was accurate and the raid became controversial because of the effects of its outstanding accuracy. The beautiful old centre of Augsburg was completely destroyed by high explosive and fire, with much less than the usual spread of bombing to the more modern outer areas, where some industry was located. There were 246 large or medium fires and 820 small ones; the temperature was so cold (minus 18" Celsius) that the River Lech was frozen over and many of the water hoses also froze. The Germans publicized it as an extreme example of 'terror bombing'.

131 aircraft minelaying in Kiel Bay, 22 Mosquitos to airfields in Holland, 15 Mosquitos on diversionary raids to 4 towns to the north of the Augsburg routes, 5 RCM sorties, 10 Serrate patrols. 3 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling lost from the minelaying operation.

Total effort for the night: 777 sorties, 25 aircraft (3.2 per cent) lost.

28/29 February 1944

8 OTU Wellingtons carried out leaflet operations to France without loss.

29 February/1 March 1944

15 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf and 1 to a flying-bomb site at Sottevaast, 20 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Whitley lost.


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